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The freighter conversion market is changing as new types enter service or continue to develop. Ian Harbison spoke to several of the key players

The freighter conversion market has been dominated by Boeing types but now there is an Airbus presence.


IAI Bedek


Rafi Matalon, Senior Vice-President Marketing and Business Development, says IAI Bedek is busy right now.


In September, it delivered the first Boeing 737-700BDSFfreighter conversion to Alaska Airlines, which will take another two aircraft later this year. The airline retired its four 737-400 Combi aircraft in October, leaving it with one 737-400 freighter. The new aircraft will give the airline a 15% increase in overall capacity.


IAI designed the conversion with an 84in x 134in cargo door on the left side and an additional modification of the main deck to the Class E cargo compartment. The converted 737-700BDSF can carry a total of 10 ULDs – eight full 88in x 125in AAA plus one 80in x 43in AYK and one 88in x 79in AYF, providing a totaluseful volume of 104m³ and a payload of up to 20,400kg.


Matalon says the -700 will be the ‘star in the market’. The feedstock is coming as aircraft exit the fleets of major airlines, with operators in China and India showing interest in conversions, especially as they are impacted by strict regulations on the maximum age of aircraft. He adds that leasing companies are also interested in conversions as the next life stage for their assets.


On the 737-800, he acknowledges that there are three competitors, and Bedek is expected to have its STC during earlier 2Q18.


IAI Bedek is also looking at the Airbus A320/321, but this has a similar timeframe to the -800 as residual values are still too high. Matalon says this is a strategic move by the company and will be the first Airbus type to be converted, but it has plenty of experience on other types.


As the Tel Aviv facility is so busy, the company has been looking abroad for remote sites. In June this year, it announced new ventures in China and Mexico.


In China, it has signed a partnership agreement with the Haite Group, through its subsidiary Tianjin Aircraft Engineering Company (TAECO), to co-develop a conversion programme for the Boeing 737-700/800.This is expected to be up and running quickly so that the first converted 737-700 aircraft can be certified and delivered to their launching customer as soon as possible. Development of a 737-800 programme has already begun and, if the project progresses according to schedule, it is expected to make IAI Bedek one of the first suppliers to reach the market with a certified STC.


A more ambitious programme has been set up in Mexico, where the company is working with Mexicana MRO Services as a sub-contractor and has established a Boeing 767-300 nose-to-tail conversion line in Mexico City. The two companies signed the agreement in November last year. In March of this year, about 30 Mexicana employees, including structural engineers, electricians, maintenance mechanics and engineers, moved to Israel to be trained for 90 days. On their return, they were responsible for training a further 90 personnel who will work on the conversion line.


In a local interview, Marcos Rosales, General Director of Mexicana MRO Services, said that the facility can handle three aircraft a year, with a 120 day turnaround time, half the rate of IAI Bedek. He added that, if demand is there, the company will be looking to expand the facility by 1,500m² to add another conversion line.


However, the New Mexico City International Airport is due to open in late 2020 and the plan is for Mexicana MRO Services to relocate to new facilities. He said the new facility would be planned in a different way to the current hangar layout and would include the 767 project.


The first aircraft was inducted in June and the STC approval has been gained. A second aircraft is under conversion at the moment. Both are for Kalitta Air.


Matalon expects more than 10 767s to be converted in 2018. >>


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